Business & Real Estate

Davis biotech firm might accept stock market downgrade

Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations, at the company’s greenhouse in Davis.
Pam Marrone, founder and CEO of Marrone Bio Innovations, at the company’s greenhouse in Davis. Sacramento Bee file

Marrone Bio Innovations Inc. said Tuesday it might surrender its listing on the prestigious Nasdaq “global” stock market.

The struggling Davis biotech firm has acknowledged for months it could lose the Nasdaq listing because its total stock market value had fallen below $50 million. In a statement filed Tuesday with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company said it will ask Nasdaq officials for a hearing to present a plan to get back into compliance with the listing requirement.

However, Marrone also said “the plan may include a request for the transfer of the company’s listing” to the less-prestigious Nasdaq “capital” market. With less stringent listing standards, the capital market is generally reserved for smaller companies and offers less visibility to member companies.

Marrone’s shares closed Tuesday at 82 cents, up 2 cents, leaving it with a total market value of $20.2 million.

The company has been struggling for nearly two years with an accounting scandal that resulted in a federal indictment of its former chief operating officer, Hector Absi. Prosecutors said Absi deliberately inflated the company’s revenue figures. He’s pleaded not guilty to all charges.

Marrone has agreed to pay $12 million to settle lawsuits filed by shareholders as well as $1.75 million to settle the SEC’s investigation into the matter. In June it announced it obtained a crucial concession from lenders to ward off a potentially crippling cash squeeze. The lenders waived a loan clause requiring Marrone, a maker of eco-friendly pesticides, to maintain at least $15 million in cash.

Despite the continuing challenges, founder and CEO Pam Marrone said the company “is the strongest it’s ever been.”

Among other things, the company recently began testing some of its organic pesticides and fungicides on a coffee plantation in Guatemala, a tea plantation in Indonesia and elsewhere.

“International is a big push,” she said. “The market’s going our way globally.”

Dale Kasler: 916-321-1066, @dakasler